Using an enterprise-level dataset collected from 234 workshops located in the furniture cluster of the city of Arusha, Tanzania, this paper investigates the mechanisms of technical knowledge exchange that take place in clusters. A knowledge exchange link is defined as any two clustering entrepreneurs who perform similar manufacturing techniques in the production process. The results show that the strength of the ethnic networks of producers has positive effects on acquisition of manufacturing techniques, particularly in skills such as wood-joining, which are mainly influenced by a producer’s own skills rather than production facilities. Using dyadic data analysis, this paper further finds that two producers from the same ethnic minority are more likely to exhibit the same manufacturing techniques compared with two producers from the same ethnic majority. These findings suggest that ethnic networks facilitate knowledge exchange in an industrial cluster, but that this positive externality of the ethnic network effect only takes place in small-sized ethnic groups, and only to the extent that sophisticated facilities are not essential in the knowledge learning processes.
Keywords: ethnic networks, knowledge learning, industrial cluster, Africa